A homeless man has been charged with a hate crime for attacking an elderly Asian couple at a California park — and is also being investigated for allegedly threatening a Japanese-American Olympian, prosecutors and police said.
Michael Orlando Vivona, a 26-year-old transient believed to be living out of his car, was arrested Sunday on hate crime charges for allegedly assaulting a 78- and 79-year-old Korean couple at Grijalva Park in Orange, the Orange County district attorney said Wednesday.
Vivona is also suspected of verbally harassing a Japanese American Olympic karate champion, Sakura Kokumai, in the same park on April 1, District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
In Sunday’s attack, prosecutors said Vivona ran up to the couple as they took their nightly walk and slugged the elderly man in the face. He then allegedly punched the man’s wife in the head as they tried to get help.
“Community members at the park surrounded the suspect until officers arrived,” Orange police said Monday.
Sgt. Phil McMullin told the Orange County Register that “people knew about” Vivona from the earlier incident involving Kokumai.
Detectives reportedly believe both incidents were hate crimes, but Vivona had not been charged in the alleged verbal attack against Kokumai as of Thursday, a spokeswoman for Spitzer told The Post.
Vivona made statements to cops indicating the attacks were “racially motivated,” McMullin told the Register.
“He’s got some sort of fixation on the Asian community,” McMullin said.
Vivona was wearing the same clothes during both incidents, the newspaper reported. Police said his last known address was in Corona, while Spitzer’s office said he had been living out of his car recently in Orange.
He’s now facing two felony counts of elder abuse, two felony counts of hate crime battery and two felony hate crime enhancements. He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted on all counts, prosecutors said.
Vivona, who is being held on $65,000 bond, has pleaded not guilty, NBC News reported.
“You’re a loser, loser! Go home, stupid b—h,” a man police say was Vivano told Kokumai. “You’re little … I’ll f–k you up, I’ll f–k your husband up, or your boyfriend up or whoever the f–k you’re talking to on the phone.”
Kokumai was simply at the park to jog, she said.
“When he walked closer, that’s where I did get scared a little, because you just never know what could happen,” she previously told NBC News. “At that time, I was in a fight or flight mode.”
The alleged hate crime Sunday and earlier threat to Kokumai came amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans, including across the country and New York, where 66 anti-Asian hate crimes had been tallied as of Sunday, compared to 12 in the same period in 2020 — or an increase of 450 percent.
Nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents were reported nationwide from March 2020 through February, according to nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate.